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First BetterRide MTB Skills Camp in Indianapolis a Huge Success

Our First BetterRide MTB Skills Camp in Indianapolis was a huge success!

Five lucky students spend the weekend with Coach Chip, had a great time and came away much better riders.

 

Chip Coaching a Student In Our Switchback Drill

“Indianapolis was a great clinic with great people and a fun location. Probably one of the best statements I have ever heard in a clinic was a student that said the following when we stopped for a learning moment. She stated “this is the first time while riding my mountain bike, that I was thinking more about my technique instead of worrying about crashing my mountain bike”. I think that is a perfect testament to the Betterride Core Skills Clinic. In three days we can take a mountain biker and get them to start thinking about how they ride their bike instead of worrying about crashing their mountain bike.”

BetterRide certified coach Chip MacLaren

Happy mtb camp Students with coach Chip

 

What Is It With Some Mountain Bike Riders Today?!

What is it with some mountain bikers these days? In the early days of mountain bike riding only intrepid people who were self-reliant and had a sense of adventure got into mountain biking. Now people full of fear are entering the sport (and we are trying helping them overcome those fears) and after a year or so of riding they are changing the sport. They are trying to make the trails easier to ride, “All trails should be able to be ridden by all riders.”, was posted on one of our facebook posts this spring. Another rider wrote, “if the trail has advanced features (like roots and rocks) it should be signed and have a “squirrel catcher (mtb speak for a tough move that only someone skilled enough to ride the trail can do, keeping the “squirrels” from venturing further) ” on all entrances to the trail so only experts ride it.” He went on to say, “in reality all trails should have easier go-around options on the tough sections”. What on earth makes someone feel this way?!  Many of these trails are 20-50 years old and they are way out in the woods. Who exactly is going to spend their days fixing these trails that aren’t broken? How do you make a go-around when there if a cliff going up on one side of you and cliff going down on the other?  You know what we called those trails in 1993 while riding on our fully rigid mountain bikes? “Trails”, we didn’t call them beginner, intermediate or expert, we just called them trails. You know what we did if we got to a section we could not ride? We tried it once or twice and if we failed to clear it we simply walked over it and then continued our ride. We called these sections “challenges” or “hike a bikes” they were simply part of being out on a narrow trail 10-500 miles from town. We didn’t get angry at the trail when we couldn’t make something, we didn’t call our local trail sanitizers and say, “please come make a go-around for the rock on Seven Bridges trail” and have them come out and take every “challenge” out of the trail. We laughed, yelled or screamed but we were smart enough to get off and walk before putting ourselves in danger (and sometimes our egos were bigger than our skills and we got hurt, mountain biking can be dangerous when you exceed your skill level!) we used “common sense”. Sometimes we even turned around, “that trail is too tough!” was heard more than once. Then a friend would ride it and tell us how great it was and we would give it another try.

Again, we love helping riders improve and some of our students are much better riders and racers than we are and some aren’t as good, who cares, it isn’t a contest, it is mountain biking. Doesn’t “mountain biking” make you think of nature while “road biking” conjures up images of pavement? Is nature safe and manicured or is nature harsh and rough?  Believe me famous mountain biking destinations like, Moab, Bootleg Canyon, Durango, Sedona, Squamish and Whistler are harsh and rough in places.  Doesn’t “mountain biking” sound tougher than “road biking”? Are mountains smooth and soft or jagged and gnarly? Don’t get me wrong, I love the sweet beginner trails that are being built. Many of them flow so well even “expert riders” enjoy them. Keep building sweet beginner trails, they help grow the sport and get more people riding “mountain bikes”. Even people who formerly thought mountain biking was dangerous and not for them are starting to ride. This is great, except, mountain biking is dangerous, it involves riding a bike in the mountains (remember, mountain are jagged and gnarly)! Many trails, especially older and harder to reach trails are not manicured, they are wild. All mountain bikers can ride these trails just the less skilled are going to walk many sections. At that point they can choose to not ride that trail again or challenge themselves to improve, not dumb down the trail! I would love to be able to score a goal playing ice hockey but they are not going to make the hockey goals as big as soccer goals so I can do it! They are going to make me earn my goal scoring skills, the same way they did, with good coaching and lots of deliberate practice! Heck, I might even feel good about myself. I might feel like I faced a challenge and overcame it! Aren’t growth, learning and pushing your personal limits things that make you feel good? Ski racers didn’t dumb down the slopes, they educated themselves, trained hard and they actually ice down their race courses to make them harder! There are still beginner trails for their fans, foes, friends and family but there are trails them too!

When did we get so soft? We meaning the “US”, have you ever ridden in Canada? In Quebec and British Colombia the local trails are so hard many pro cross country racers from the US could not ride them. You know what they call these super hard trails in Canada, “trails”. They rode some of these trails 20 years ago on hardtails and they ride them now on their full-suspension bikes. Some trails were built more recently and are even harder, designed to challenge riders on their “cheater” 4-6” travel bikes.  In Canada (like in the US in the early 1990s) they know some sections are harder than others so they walk the hard sections until they learn to ride them. That is part of mountain biking.

Get out and ride and challenge yourself to improve!

 

Shout Out To BetterRide Certified MTB Skills Coaches!

I am so proud of our coaches! Glowing reviews from our students keep pouring in on the BetterRide facebook page and email in box. It feels great to be helping so many riders greatly improve their riding and meet/exceed their riding goals.

As you may or may not know becoming a BetterRide certified mtb skills coach isn’t easy. It takes a lot more than decent riding skill and a two day certification camp to coach for us! Our coaches are well trained, patient and passionate about coaching, which is why they get reviews like these:

“Awesome skills camp in San Diego taught by Dylan Renn. Learned more in a weekend than I’ve learned in 15+ years of mountain biking. In fact, 1/2 of the techniques I learned from magazine articles turned out to be totally wrong. Had fun riding with a great group of fellow students. Why didn’t I do this earlier?”     Len Prokopets (from our facebook page)

 

Dylan getting some coaching from World Champ Greg Minnaar!

“Gene…. I’m STOKED…

I just had the best ride I’ve EVER had!

Mammoth from the top down to the village non stop. Hit every table top, every gap, railed every berm and turn.

Funny thing, Chip will laugh every turn if I even started to look down I would here Chips voice… “look at me” eye would go up and looking through the turn.

Not once did fear get me or did I feel out of control.

This is what I took away from both camps with Chip and put all the figure 8′s in the street for.

First time it all actually came together at once on the mountain.

Thanks to both you and Chip for what you do!!!”

Doug Williams

Chip coaching in Bend, Oregon.

“Hi Gene. I took the camp in Austin this past weekend and it was great! My confidence has gone to new heights. Coach Andy Schabo is awesome and very patient. After I get minor adjustments done to my bike,I will set up the cones and only get better from there ! My money and time was well spent. Thanks Gene for all that you do for us riders!!!!!”    Sandra Martinez

Coach Andy Shabo out for an epic adventure in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Why do our coaches get such great reviews?  Coaching is a skill that takes a lot of patience, a small ego, a great attitude and a fair amount of training and experience to do well. First our coaches must attend a three day skills progression with us then spend weeks/months doing their drills so they become very good at the skills we teach. Next they take a three day coaches camp to learn how to break down and explain the skills in our curriculum, deal with a wild range of personalities and learning styles  and get students to understand and do each skill we teach. Once they have completed their three day skills progression and three day coaches camp they are certified to assist me. Once they have assisted me at at least four camps and taught each part of curriculum under my supervision only then can they lead a BetterRide skills progression on their own.

Our coaches are simply the most passionate, patient and skilled coaches in the sport.

A Simple Way to Go Faster On Your MTB While Using Less Energy!

A simple mountain biking technique to go faster while saving energy!

Often there is not enough detail in mtb advice or it is flat out wrong. This is an example of not quite enough detail. When I first started riding I was taught to rest on the descents (by coasting) to save energy for the climbs. This is partially true but it leaves out a Huge speed adding and energy saving technique. Won’t you like to complete your ride in less time while using less energy?!

The technique is simple, pedal some downhills and rest on the uphills! How is this possible? On sections of trail that are rolling (short downhill into short uphill, possibly repeated multiple times)as you crest the hill continue pedaling over the top and down the downhill then coast the uphill and repeat! It takes way less energy to accelerate from four miles an hour to 15-20 mph than it does to maintain ten mph uphill.

One reason I quit racing cross country years ago was it was frustrating being held by riders who were fitter than me but seemed to lack this seemingly common sense skill as well as riding skills. On one rolling section of trail at the Iron Horse Classic in 1994 I was able to maintain what felt like 20 miles an hour over a section of 12-15 rollers without pedaling (after the first downhill) in practice. In the race a physically stronger but less skilled rider was in front of me in this section and we managed about 10 miles an hour while working our tails off!  Frustrating to say the least! The ride in front of me was only looking about 10 feet in front of him (aka looking down) so he braked on the descents and then pedaled the uphills and repeated! In practice I simply pedaled down the first downhill and pumped the rollers to maintain 20 and have a lot of fun! Unskilled riders in race kill fun (and waste a lot of energy).

If you aren’t clear on how this work I will break it down for you. Let’s say you and fellow rider both crest the first hill (in the series of rollers) a little out of breath at four miles an hour. You decide to rest the dowhhill by coasting as soon as possible while your riding buddy sneaks in a few pedals. The hill makes you accelerate from four mph to eight, you have doubled your speed! Meanwhile, your buddy accelerated from four to 16 or 20, pretty easy to do with a few pedal strokes on a downhill. Now, yes, at the bottom of the hill he is still a little out of breath and you have recovered but, he is going more than twice your speed! (and he is already quite a ways in front of you). Now for the uphill, you attack it (because you have recovered) and manage to maintain eight miles an hour. Your riding buddy (being still out of breath) coasts up the hill and slows from 16 to 11, reaching the top of the second hill recovered, ahead of you and going much faster into the next descent (where he will just pedal once or twice down to double your speed again.

In short,when possible Pedal the Downhills and Coast the Uphills! (on certain uphills, obviously this doesn’t work on 1,000 foot climbs, although it still will be faster for the length of the descent and the first part of the climb).